A self-posted video shows a man and his wife shopping at a Santee Food 4 Less while wearing masks with Nazi swastika flags — triggering outrage for the second time in a week over hate symbols in public.
The bearded man, who goes by “Dusty Shekel” but confirmed his real name is Dustin Hart, uploaded the 14-minute clip to BitChute, a service that the Southern Poverty Law Center says hosts “hate-fueled material.”
“We were peacefully protesting all the crazy lockdown rules that have been and are continuing to be enforced here in San Diego, California,” says a video description. “These crazy rules are destroying any quality of life we had left. Now we are unemployed and literally have nothing better to do and nowhere else we are allowed to be.”
In a 7-minute confrontation Thursday with two sheriff’s deputies, Hart says in the video: “We have a Nazi for a governor. Now you guys are here, literally proving my point.”
The longtime Santee resident, 32, says he was making a peaceful protest and not causing a problem.
dustin hart (dusty shekel on facebook & reichard_nixon on IG) & his wife brittany hart. Proud members of white supremacist groups.
— 2TON (@noahdotterman) May 9, 2020
“I’m just standing here doing my shopping,” he tells a store employee who first confronts the shopper and calls his behavior a hate crime. “Not [causing] any issues.”
At one point, Hart offers to take off the mask “if you don’t like it.” The clerk — who he says he’s known for a long time — offers him another one.
“Go for it, man,” says Hart. “I’ll take it off when I’m checking out.”
But Hart later says he’s not taking it off
“It’s my First Amendment right,” he says. “There’s no sign that says I can’t decorate my mask the way I want. This is America — the land of the free.”
A male deputy who identified himself in the video as K (for Kenneth) Belzer told Hart he was in a family friendly store.
“They don’t want people seeing that,” Belzer says. “It’s offensive to people. …If you want to do that outside, it’s perfectly fine. In a private store, they can make their own rules.”
Hart declines to give his address and ID, finally saying: “I don’t want to answer any more questions.”
On the video, Hart claims to be unaware of the Klan-hooded shopper at Vons the previous Saturday. But in a half-hour phone interview with Times of San Diego, he said he was vaguely aware of a KKK incident.
But Hart says he’s not someone in a KKK hood “going around promoting the Klan. It’s a guy peaceful protesting the governor.”
The accompanying woman, also with a Nazi symbol velcroed to her mask, pushed a stroller with a child in it and wore a T-shirt with a green frog clown and the words “Honk Honk.” That’s similar to the “Pepe the Frog” meme that has become associated with the alt-right movement and labeled a hate symbol.
The confrontation ended without an arrest. The video shows the couple unloading their basket with the same clerk who confronted them earlier. Hart says he shopped for about an hour before being confronted about his mask.
“I would just like to go back to work,” Hart told the deputies. “All I get to do is sit home and fester. I want to get out of my house and go to work and be productive.”
Deputies responding to a reported disturbance at a Food 4 Less in the 9400 block of Cuyamaca Street shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday arrived to find Hart wearing a mask decorated with a rectangular swastika flag, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“When deputies asked for the symbol to be removed, the man complied,” according to a sheriff’s statement. “Sheriff’s investigators will continue to look into the matter. The Sheriff’s Department does not condone hate or acts of intolerance. We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds.”
The episode prompted expressions of shock and disgust online, including one from county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents Santee and other East County neighborhoods.
“Sad, vile acts like this must not be tolerated here or anywhere else,” she tweeted Friday afternoon. “It’s deeply offensive to the community and our entire region.”
Other online commentators noted with dismay that a similar incident occurred in Santee only last weekend. On Saturday, a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood went shopping at a Vons store in the 9600 block of Mission Gorge Road, prompting angry condemnation from local leaders and civil-rights agencies.
Store employees repeatedly asked the customer to remove the pointed white head covering, and he finally did so while standing in a cashier’s line, according to Melissa Hill, a representative for Vons and Albertsons stores in Southern California.
Detectives were looking into whether the man, whose name was withheld, broke any laws by wearing the KKK-style shroud in public, according to sheriff’s officials.
Updated at 8:50 p.m. May 8, 2020.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
— Ida Rose Florez, PhD (@idaroseflorez) May 9, 2020